Kaiyote Jackson is helping the trans community find more freedom in their bodies
Running a business

Kaiyote Jackson is helping the trans community find more freedom in their bodies

In honor of Pride Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who play a vital role in creating an inclusive and vibrant small business community.

Name: Kaiyote Jackson

Location: Union, Maine

Pronouns: He/Him

Business: TransTape

Tell us about your business. 

We offer a safe, flexible, waterproof and sweatproof body-transformation system for Transgender, non-binary, gender-fluid and cis-queer humans

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

It was never my intention to start an online business. I realized that I was transgender at a later age and upon my discovery I found a lack of products that helped me find comfort and relief in my body prior to having surgery. I created a product for myself to make my daily living more tolerable. After creating and using what I called “TransTape” for a year, I decided I should share it with the community so that they could experience the freedom that I had found in my body. Myself and my partner at the time created a website and made a post on Instagram and within an hour we had made our first sale. We did not start with any funding and do not market our business—we have grown solely through word of mouth throughout the community.

quote image
If you’re open and honest with your customers and treat them with respect, they will be loyal and understanding.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

We have faced many challenges in our short 5 years in business. The greatest lesson, I think, is that if you’re open and honest with your customers and treat them with respect, they will be loyal and understanding.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

It’s surprising how many people it takes to run the back-end of the business. There’s so much that goes into individual state sales taxes and duties owed to foreign countries and balancing a budget to grow without collapse. We have a team of eight that run the daily operations plus an entire shipping company. I wouldn’t think it would take that many people to run an online business.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

Budgeting, funding, and projecting growth have been the hardest things so far. This company was started with zero capital or financial backing so we’ve had to be creative with how we kept up with the demand. Our growth is very rapid and unpredictable and we have run out of stock more times than we’d like to admit. We have since started working with private funding agencies and are now able to support our growth better.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I feel empowered and proud to run my own business. It is a hard thing to do normally, but doing so while transitioning and being a transgender person has been an added challenge. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?  

Shipping has been our biggest issue so far. Between our shipments being held at port for weeks to months at a time, to running out of stock causing our queue to backup and having to fill thousands of orders at a time. We have since moved over to a third party shipping company which has increased our ability to fill orders in a timely manner and to have an accurate inventory count accessible to avoid over-selling.

What are your proudest moments? 

It makes me very proud that we are able to give so much back to the community. We employ many trans, non-binary and queer humans, and sponsor local and international artists and LGBTQIA community members. We have been able to donate thousands of dollars to many charities and production companies to keep the arts alive as well as donating directly to individuals for their gender-affirming surgeries and medications. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

It is our plan to expand to international shipping facilities. At least one-third of our business is international and shipping costs to those countries are very high. We hope to have locations set up in CA, UK, AU by the end of next year. We are also hoping to have our own shipping facility where we can employ more members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

I feel as though our success is due mainly to our loyal and supportive community. We have not put any money into marketing or advertising and have grown through word of mouth and social media only. Our incredible customer service team and their willingness to walk our customers through their process also sets us apart and contributes to our sucess as well as having a team created of trans, non-binary, and queer employees.  

What challenges do you feel are unique to small business owners in the LGBTQIA+ community? Have you come up against any bias? 

Definitely trying to get funding is the hardest part. Most LGBTQ business owners don’t have experience in this field so they must prove they are successful before getting funding, which makes being successful even harder.

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Create a product that people need and offer as many resources that you can to your customers.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the community?  

Create a product that people need and offer as many resources that you can to your customers. People are looking to support our community and are always in need of new products to make living life in our bodies easier and more tolerable. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

Hearing the stories of our users keeps me and my team going. We receive lots of emails every day and most of them are about shipping issues with upset customers. It’s nice to read our emails praising our team and our products and hearing all the ways that TransTape has helped to improve our users' quality of life.

To learn more about TransTape and support the business, visit their website or them out on Instagram.

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